With winter water temperatures upon us and migratory species mostly gone, offshore anglers shift their focus toward bottom fish. Grouper are the primary target, but those anglers are missing out on another tasty opportunity: mangrove snapper. In the North Pinellas-Pasco County area, these fish are more of an incidental catch than a targeted species. This isn't due to their abundance but their attitude. They are remarkably finicky. As a diver I can tell you that virtually every ledge wreck and rock in this area is inhabited by "mangos." If you only fish medium to heavy tackle for grouper, it's unlikely you will catch one. To capitalize, you need at least one dedicated snapper rod that has minimally visible tackle on it. It must have monofilament for the mainline and should have the tiniest sinker that will deliver the bait to the bottom. These fish will not bite a bait with a big sinker bouncing next to it. Small hooks are critical, no bigger than a 3/0 circle hook. Leader material should be fluorocarbon, no heavier than 30-pound test.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.